Fantasy Focus: Point Guards
With over a month of NBA action in the books, and a quarter of the truncated 66-game schedule to use a sample size, today we examine the point guard position. We’ll highlight a handful of standouts and break them up into three distinct categories, determining which point guards have lived up to their Draft Day hype thus far, and which PG’s have been bitter disappointments to the GM’s that selected them last month.
Here is my preseason ranking for all guards, which we will use as a starting point. As always, HOOPSWORLD assumes a nine-category league (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, FG%, and FT%) when talking fantasy hoops. Please note that we considered players with eligibility limited only to the point guard position in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
Exceeding (Even Extreme) Expectations:
Kyle Lowry –Houston Rockets:
I had Lowry projected higher than most, but even I could not have predicted the monster numbers Lowry is posting. Consider this: Kyle Lowry averaging more assists than Derrick Rose; more rebounds than Luis Scola or Brandon Bass; more points than Gerald Wallace; and he has a higher free-throw percentage than Steve Nash. Oh, and Lowry is tied for seventh in the NBA in steals (2.0). Lowry has slumped a bit lately (he shot below 20% from the floor in three straight games) but due to his consistent stat-sheet stuffing play, he is currently ranked 14th overall in 9-category leagues. A great return on a 4th or 5th round investment…
Ricky Rubio –Minnesota Timberwolves:
While I’d like to claim kudos for being bullish on Lowry, I have to admit I was way off on Rubio. Ricky has taken the NBA, and fantasy nation, by storm. Despite coming off the bench and playing limited minutes early on, Rubio has managed to vault himself into the top-40 overall, an amazing accomplishment considering this is his first exposure to American basketball. We knew he could pass, but Ricky has been better than advertised, dishing out 8.9 dimes a night (he is currently tied with Chris Paul for 3rd in the league). Rubio is also 3rd in the NBA in steals. The biggest knock on Ricky coming into the league was his inability to knock down long jumpers, but he’s nailed 17 three-balls this season and is shooting a surprisingly impressive 35.4% from behind the arc. There are some flaws in his game (3.2 turnovers and shooting just 38% from the floor), but Rubio’s stock has soared far further then most imagined.
Brandon Jennings –Milwaukee Bucks:
Considered a chucker over his first two NBA seasons, Jennings biggest improvement this season is centered around his increased efficiency. Brandon shot a combined 38% from the field during his rookie and sophomore seasons in the league, but has bumped that all the way to 44.5% this year. As a result, he is scoring a career-high 20.1 ppg. He’s complimented that with a career-high 1.6 steals and 2.3 three-pointers. Add it all up, and you have a mid-round pick that’s giving shrewd GM’s first-round value.
Kyrie Irving –Cleveland Cavaliers:
In his first game in the NBA, Irving hit just 2 of the 12 FG’s he attempted. It set a rookie record for lowest shooting percentage with over 10 shots attempted. Since then, over the next 18 games, Irving is shooting a blistering 53.3%. That’s a ridiculously high percentage for any PG, let alone a neophyte that’s supposed to be learning the NBA game. In fact, Kyrie Irving is flirting with the “Steve Nash’s seasonal percentage triple-double club”. On the season,Irvingis shooting 51.6 FG%, 40.7 3PT%, and 80.6 FT%. That’s uncharted territory for a first-year player.
Jeff Teague –Atlanta Hawks:
The seeds of Jeff Teague breakout were sewn last Fall, and all signs pointed towards success this preseason. Per the HOOPSWORLD Top-100 preseason rankings: “Teague should see plenty of PT this season. Mike Bibby and the Hawks parted way late last season and Jamal Crawford, an unrestricted free agent is likely headed out of town. Teague only real competition for minutes left on the Hawks roster is Kirk Hinrich and Atlanta GM Rick Sund recently announced that Hinrich would miss “at least the first month of the regular season” after surgery to remove a cyst and repair the labrum in his left shoulder. It is also important to note how well Teague played when given a heavy workload in the playoffs last May. In Atlanta’s second-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls, Hinrich was injured and Teague went head-to-head with MVP Derrick Rose. Surprisingly, Teague was exceedingly impressive. During the six-game series, Teague played 38.2 minutes a night and averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.0 steals; while shooting an inspiring 53.7% from the floor and over 84% from the free-throw stripe… All things considered, Teague is set up beautifully to for breakout campaign. I plan on drafting Teague (right around round 9 or 10) in every league I play in this season.” Fortunately, I did end up scooping up Teague in nearly every league. He has rewarded that confidence by averaging 13 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.1 steals, and 1 three-ball, while shooting 49.5 from the floor.
Jarrett Jack –New Orleans Hornets:
Jack saw his stock soar as soon as CP3 was shipped out to L.A. Jack was handed the starting PG gig and has ran with it. JJ has proven capable of handling starting PG duties in the past, and is currently playing a career-high 36 mpg, and producing the best numbers of his career: 16.1 points, 6.9 assists, and 3.9 boards.
Living Up to the Hype / Par for the Course Thus Far:
Chris Paul –Los Angeles Clippers:
Paul was projected as a Top-3 overall pick, so expectations were already through the roof. Other than missing a few games due to injury, CP3 has delivered the goods. On the year, he’s averaging nearly 18 points and 9 assists (versus just 1.9 turnovers), to go along with 1.3 3’s, 3.5 boards, and a league leading 2.5 steals. Can’t ask for much more than that…
Derrick Rose –Chicago Bulls:
Another consensus Top-6 pick, D Rose sits at #6 overall this season through the first quarter of the 2011-2012 season. There were some concerns about Rose being able to maintain his MVP-level production this year, but Derrick has assuaged any fears by basically replicating his dominant statistical performance.
Russell Westbrook –Oklahoma City Thunder:
The turnovers remain an issue (3.6 TO’s per contest), but that’s the only real flaw in Westbrook’s well rounded game. On the season, he’s averaging 21.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.7 apg, and 2.1 steals. Westbrook is one of only four players in the NBA this season to average at least 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals (the other three are LeBron, Kyle Lowry, & Rubio).
Deron Williams –New Jersey Nets:
Although the Nets stumbled out of the gates, D-Will has held up his end of the bargain for the most part. His assist totals are down (12.8 last season versus 8.5 this year) but assuming Brook Lopez returns in the second half and his teammates start knocking down some shots, those numbers should climb.
Devin Harris –Utah Jazz:
Over an eight-game stretch from January 7th through January 21st, Harris saw his stock plummet precipitously, as he averaged just 6.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, while shooting a putrid 34.5% from the floor and 60% from the free-throw line. Obviously this wasn’t what fantasy leaguers had in mind when they drafted him back in December, which led to many GMs dumping Harris into the waiver pool in many shallow leagues. Harris finally showed some signs of life last Wednesday night, pouring in a season-high 24 points and dishing out six assists in a loss to the Raptors. However, Harris followed up that outburst with two more uninspiring efforts – scoring a total of 19 points in the Mavs next two games… It’s been a remarkably quick decline in production from a guy who was averaging over 21 points and 7 dimes per game as an All-Star in New Jersey just a few short years ago. His per-season scoring average over the last four years (2008-2012) reads: 21.3, 16.9, 15.4, 9.2 ppg.
Raymond Felton –Portland Trail Blazers:
After a breakout campaign in New York under Mike D’Antoni, Felton proved he could be a fantasy stud the right system. Apparently, Portland isn’t the right system. Raymond has been a major disappointment for the Blazers, who acquired him in exchange for Andre Miller this past offseason. Felton is averaging a career-lows in scoring (10.4 ppg), rebounds (2.4 rpg), and steals (1.2 spg), while also shooting a career low from the floor (36.8%) and from behind the three-point arc (19.7%). Felton hit 46% of his three-point attempts for the Nuggets last season. At it all up, and Felton finds himself ranked 169th overall on the season, placing him behind such luminaries as Jon Leuer, Alonzo Gee, and Matt Bonner. A bitter pill to swallow for GM’s who wasted a mid-round pick on him.
John Wall –Washington Wizards:
Wall is blessed with incredible physical gifts, but coming into this season, the hope was that Wall would improve his efficiency and take better care of the ball. Instead, Wall has seen his turnovers increase (he leads the league in turnovers) and is his field goal percentage has decreased (and he is shooting just 11% from three-point land). His assist and scoring averages are also below last season’s numbers. Wall has shown some signs of late, and considering he is ranked 110th overall, he is a possible “buy low” candidate.
Toney Douglas –New York Knicks:
Douglas was drafted nearly as high as Harris or Felton, but there was a heavy continent of fantasy folks extremely bullish on Toney Douglas’ prospects prior to the start of this season. And with good reason – as the entrenched starting PG of a D’Antoni offensive attack, it seemed likely Douglas would put up some solid, if not spectacular, stats. Unfortunately, TD has a crisis of confidence early on and never found his groove. He eventually lost his starting gig, as he simply couldn’t hit shots. Toney is shooting an abominable 32.3% from the floor and 25.8% from behind the arc. He’s also averaging just 2.7 assists, versus 2.1 turnovers. As a result, you can find Douglas littered all over waiver wires across the land.
Tyreke Evans –Sacramento Kings:
Tyreke has had his moments this season, including the monster 31/9/6 bomb he dropped on the Jazz Saturday night. The problem is that those beastly stat lines have been too few and far in between. Many fantasy analysts pegged Tyreke as an undervalued superstar coming into the 2011-2012 campaign ready to fulfill his potential. But Evans inconsistency remains maddening. Tyreke has seen his scoring and assist averages decrease in two consecutive seasons after his incredible Rookie of the Year campaign. It’s frustrating, because when you watch the kid play, you quickly realize he’s clearly one of the most talented players in the entire league.
Jameer Nelson –Orlando Magic:
Jameer was a useful fantasy contributor as the Magic’s playmaker last season, averaging over 13 points (on 44.6% FG shooting), 6 assists, 1.6 three-balls, and a 1 steal. This season, due to a combination of nagging injuries and a decrease in confidence (Nelson has admitted Howard pining for a better PG has upset him), Jameer has seen those number dip across the board. This season, Nelson is averaging 8.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, while shooting below 39% from the field, and now he is dealing with a concussion that will likely sideline him for a full week.
Look for more Fantasy Focus later in the week as Susan Bible takes a crack at the shooting guards.